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Entries in chicago (4)


New Nutrition (1933)

The book Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food by Warren Belasco is one of my favorite books ever. So well researched and written, I could devote a thousand posts to its genius. Instead I'll share an insight from page 217 about the 1933 Chicago World's Fair and American attitudes at that time toward meal pills. While I think Belasco is correct in his assessment that meal pills felt inevitable for many people of that generation, it's important to remember that there were indeed skeptics.

Issues of faith and control underlay much of the popular ambivalence about modernism. If, as the slogan at the 1933 Chicago fair proclaimed, "Science Finds -- Industry Applies -- Man Conforms," there is not a lot that Man can do except sit back and try to enjoy the ride. The belief that modernization is both unstoppable and indifferent to individual desires probably explains the persistent popular belief in the inevitability of the meal-in-a-pill, that scary New Nutrition extrapolation. While most people vow and hope that they will never rely on pills for food, they presume future generations will conform to whatever "science finds" -- pills, algae, or other dystopian horrors proposed by the "brave new world of totalitarian technics."

I'm fascinated by trends in futurism, but I must always remind myself that people of a given generation are not of one mind. Thinking about the great number of cultural, political and social divisions present in 2010 helps to keep this in perspective. Futuristic themes we find odd today may appear to have been widely accepted in their time, but the fear of a robot uprising in the 1930s, or the inevitability of an incredibly short work week in the 1960s, or building a roof over an entire city in the 1940s, all had their fair share of skeptics. Accurately getting a feel for the acceptance of these ideas is one of the greatest challenges for historians.

I'm just as interested in how many people really thought we'd have a jetpack by now as I am in why we don't have that jetpack. So if anyone has creative ways of gauging public attitudes toward these futuristic ideas of the past, I'm all ears! Well, not literally. I only have two. But will people in the year 2110 assume that the people of 2010 thought they'd all one day have three ears?


The image above is from the book Exit to Tomorrow: World's Fair Architecture, Design, Fashion 1933-2005.


Previously on Paleo-Future:



Airport of the Future (1967)

Since I was stuck at Chicago's O'Hare Airport all day, here's an article from the December 1, 1967 European edition of Stars and Stripes, which describes the airport of the future.

An architect says he has an answer to the complaint that the longest and hardest part of a trip often is getting from home to the airport.

Martin Schaffer, chairman of the board of an airplane architectural firm, envisions "containerized" passengers transported from near their homes to the plane and then to their destinations without leaving the seats in which they started.

Schaffer, who served as project coordinator on construction of O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, says new airport facilities will be obsolete before they leave the drawing board unless some drastic changes are made.

"Airlines already have enough equipment in the air and on order to swamp every airport in the country by 1970," he said.

"Getting through traffic to the airport, and the handling of passengers and their baggage becomes more of a problem daily," Schaffer said, "but with plans for 500 and 750-passenger planes to go into service in the next few years our airports will become chaotic."

Schaffer emphasized that bigger airports with more buildings are not the answer.

Shaffer's airport of the future has no large terminal buildings but consists mainly of runways for jets and circular landing pads for vertical takeoff planes. These planes are in the design stage, Shaffer said, and resemble helicopters except that they go faster and are propelled by rotating engines instead of blades.

Shaffer said long, tiring drives to the airport followed by parking problems, long ticket lines, baggage check-in lines and then the long walk to the boarding area would be eliminated by his new transport system.

Shaffer foresees passengers with their baggage boarding a "pod" from gathering points in the area serviced by the airport, Shaffer explained that the pods would be car-like compartments running on monorails through tunnels like an underground system or on an air cushion.

Several pods, carrying about 75 passengers each, would be scheduled for a specific flight, Shaffer said, and after picking up the passengers at designated stops, would go directly to the field.

Instead of seats for passengers, planes would consist of a large frame in which the pods would be inserted, the way baggage compartments are insterted into a frame now, Shaffer said.

The pods could be detached from the air frame upon landing and could carry the passengers to different points at their destination, he said.

"We've got the technology to build this type of system within the next 15 years," Shaffer said.

See also:
Commuter Helicopter (1947)


Year 2000 Time Capsule (1958)

The June 10, 1958 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune ran an article about predictions for Chicagoland and the world. The predictions were sealed in a time capsule and supposed to be opened in the year 2000. Below is an excerpt from the article as well as a copy of the piece in its entirety.

The predictions included the conquering of space, advanced atomic energy and electronic progress, a higher standard of living, shorter working hours, and longer vacations (with four weeks as the average). The chicken in every pot and a car in every garage forecast has been changed to a helicopter and heliport in every back yard.

See also:
Commuter Helicopter (1947)


Chicago's Grant Park: Fighting for the Future

I finally finished the PBS American Experience documentary, "Chicago - City of the Century" and found plenty to talk about in the paleo-future department. One particularly interesting element of the doc was the creation of Grant Park. Apparently plans were set in place to use the park for commercial purposes after the Great Fire of 1871. That is, until Montgomery Ward, (yes, that Montgomery Ward), took it upon himself to fight and attempt to preserve Grant Park for future generations.

According to the documentary, "Ward led a 13 year campaign to enforce the decision made in 1836 that the lakefront remain forever open, free of any buildings or obstruction. He even opposed Marshall Field for wanting to build a museum in the park. 'I fought for the poor people,' he said, 'not the millionaires.'"

With the Chicago Tribune against him as well as the other owners along Michigan Avenue he had "very little support" which seems evident given his 13 year campaign.

Grant Park has an interesting history in the 20th century as well. It was a scene of clashes between Chicago Police and protesters during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. It is also the home of many music festivals most recently becoming the semi-permanent home of Lolapalooza.